UCD 2, Wexford Youths 0: College retain top spot and hopes of automatic promotion with easy victory over Wexford Youths, watched by Shane Murphy
UCD cemented their position at the summit of the League of Ireland First Division with an impressive display against a poor Wexford Youths side that struggled to keep pace in this one-sided encounter.
The Students, eager to secure a Premier Division berth, produced a solid performance to heap further pressure on fierce rivals Shelbourne as the season enters its final month. Youths, who came into the game on the back of a comprehensive win against Limerick, could not have expected to be on the receiving end of such a first half onslaught.
The Students looked dangerous from the off, with Chris Mulhall carving open the Wexford defence with intricate passing, only for Peter McMahon to blaze wide from just outside the six yard box.
College continued to press for the opener with centre back Sean Harding delivering passes deep into the Youths’ half, causing chaos in the hapless Wexford backline. The majority of the first half was played deep in Youths’ territory, allowing Harding and Mulhall to push forward and create openings.
There was a sense of inevitability about the opener. A wonderful strike from just outside the box by midfielder Paul Corry was acrobatically tipped over by Youths’ keeper Packie Holden. From the resulting corner, Corry’s darting run left him unmarked at the near post to glance a header past Holden to give the Students a thoroughly deserved lead in the 23rd minute.
Corry continued to torment the Youths, causing mayhem in the Wexford defence. His intricate passing consistently broke the Youths’ rearguard, with the final touch letting the Students down.
UCD continued to press for a second and their efforts were rewarded just before half time. The imperious Mulhall ghosted past two Wexford players on the right wing, delivering an inch-perfect pass into the box and allowing centre forward Ciaran ‘Killer’ Kilduff to clinically slot past Holden, giving the Students a comfortable 2-0 lead. Kilduff’s fine finish was just rewards for an utterly dominant UCD side.
The Students competed up until the half time whistle, with the desperate Wexford defence in total disarray. The break could not come soon enough for Mick Wallace’s charges, who only managed a solitary shot on target in the opening half.
The second half coincided with the arrival of mist, perhaps a by-product of the hairdryer treatment Wallace was likely have unleashed on his young side during the interval. His pep talk seemed to have worked, as Wexford began to hold possession much better in the second half and slowly grew more threatening. Spearheaded by good work in midfield, Youths began to string some neat passes together and open up the UCD cover. The Students appeared to enter a brief slumber, allowing their opponents back into the game.
Wexford pressed for an opening only to be denied by tough tackling from the UCD rearguard, in particular defender Evan McMillan, who produced a stunning tackle to deny Gary Sheehan from just outside the box in the 65th minute. McMillan’s bone-crunching intervention acted as a call to arms for the Students, raising them out of their temporary paralysis.
Re-energised, UCD once again pressed forward in the hope of inflicting further misery on their opponents. In the 74th minute Kilduff was once again through only to see his weak shot easily saved. Neat touches by substitute Robbie Creevy saw UCD dominate the possession stakeholdings once again, and a probing ball from Ronan Finn spilt the Wexford defence only for Kilduff to head over after 85.
Youths showed little of their impressive away form that has been the hallmark of their season, looking tired and unable to match the physicality and intensity of their hosts, who were visibly hungry for a return to more hallowed pastures and illustrious opponents.
The Students, eager to make amends for their loss in the corresponding fixture back in April, duly dispatched their opponents. Though far from clinical, particularly in the second half, UCD ultimately strolled to a comfortable finish to set up a mouth-watering finale to the season.
UCD: Gerrard Baron, Sean Harding, Andrew Boyle, Evan McMillan, Ciaran Nangle, Chris Mulhall, Paul Corry, Ronan Finn, David McMillan, Ciaran Kilduff, Peter McMahon. Substitutes: Michael Leahy, Robert Creevy, Keith Wood, Graham Rusk, Billy Brennan